AstraZeneca’s requirement was for the provision of 20,000 square metres of “state-of-the-art” multi-disciplinary laboratories housing 260 scientists undertaking cancer research, together with a glazed circulation “street” to link with the existing facilities, promote interaction and provide a focus for the research community.
The building is the latest stage of a phased £240 million site re-development masterplanned by Swedish architect Gert Wingardh. Occupying a prominent position in what was previously a car park, the building had to comply with strict Local Authority restrictions of both developable area and building height, to protect the Cheshire parkland setting and its rural prospect. This in turn reduced floor to floor heights which impacted severely on the engineering services.
The building is organised as two five-storey laboratory blocks linking onto a roof glazed street in a classic “spine and rib” configuration, with a new, main entrance and reception between the two blocks.
The new glazed street incorporates a basement services spine and the roof is structurally separated from and integrated with an existing office block which is parallel to the street. The street and the refurbished offices are a single fire compartment while the new laboratories are separate fire compartments to allow the street to be as open as possible and allow the provision of a variety of meeting rooms and other interaction areas within it.
The street itself has the same stone floor finish as that used externally for elevations and the plaza to provide a timeless, quality benchmark. The upper level circulation galleries are in a matching colour and tone of terrazzo.
The laboratory blocks and their roof-top plant rooms are presented as a stone-faced monolith whilst glazing and louvres are organised as a curtain wall plane set in front of the stone box. The solidity of the stone is emphasised by the corner slot windows set back from the stone face.
The laboratory wings locate chemistry laboratories on the top floor which have a studio like atmosphere due to the (unusual) absence of suspended ceilings. Adjacent write-up areas are separated from the laboratories by a floor to ceiling glass wall to minimise the visual disruption of the space. The fume cupboards have been specially developed for a high degree of flexibility in use by easily reconfigured internal dividers and whose work surfaces are adjustable for height for ideal ergonomics.
The building was designed and constructed via a true alliancing system. The architects for the overall scheme was Amec design and Stephenson-Bell were responsible for the entrance and linking spine components.